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INSTITUTE OF PENNSYLVANIA HOSP. v. TRAVELERS INS.

June 29, 1993

INSTITUTE OF PENNSYLVANIA HOSPITAL
v.
THE TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; J. CURTIS JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 June 29, 1993

 HISTORY OF THE CASE

 Briefly stated, the relevant facts underlying the instant civil action are as follows. On March 23, 1990, the insured in this case, one Norman Black, was first admitted to the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital for medical treatment and care and remained hospitalized until April 9, 1990. On July 30, 1990, he was re-admitted to the plaintiff hospital and remained hospitalized until September 13, 1990. Mr. Black was again hospitalized on September 20, 1990 through October 10, 1990 and between October 15 and November 26, 1990. At all times relevant to this cause of action, Mr. Black was a railroad/railway employee who was eligible for and received health care benefits under the Health and Welfare Plan of the Nation's Railroads and the Railway Labor Organizations, a plan issued by The Travelers Insurance Company. At the time each of his hospitalizations commenced, Mr. Black assigned his right to receive benefits under the Plan directly to the plaintiff.

 By way of its complaint, which was originally filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on December 11, 1992, the plaintiff contends that while the defendant has directly paid it the sum of $ 83,124.76 on behalf of Norman Black, there still remains due and owing $ 6,169.25, which the defendant has steadfastly refused to pay. Thereafter, on January 28, 1993, Travelers filed its Notice of Removal to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 1441 alleging, inter alia, that this court has original jurisdiction of this action because it arises under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C.§ 1132(e). In response, the plaintiff filed its motion to remand, denying that its claim for unpaid hospital and medical services is governed by "ERISA." As noted above, the defendant then filed a motion to dismiss any pending state law claims for the same reason that because this case arose under "ERISA," that act effectively pre-empts any and all pendent state claims for relief.

 DISCUSSION

 The standards applicable to motions such as the ones now before the court are well and firmly established. In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all of the allegations recited in the complaint, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939 (3rd Cir. 1985); Hough/Lowe Associates, Inc. v. CLX Realty Co., 760 F. Supp. 1141 (E.D.Pa. 1991). In order to prevail on a motion to dismiss, Defendant must establish that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would entitle it to relief. See: Oatess v. Sobolevitch, 914 F.2d 428, 431, note 8 (3rd Cir. 1990); Hendrix v. Fleming Companies, 650 F. Supp. 301 (W.D. Okla. 1986).

 Under 28 U.S.C.§ 1441(a), "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending..." In the absence of diversity of citizenship of the parties, federal question jurisdiction is of course required. See: Coardes v. Chrysler Corp., 785 F. Supp. 480 (D.Del. 1992). In ruling on whether an action should be remanded to the state court from which it was removed, the district court must focus on the plaintiff's complaint at the time the petition for removal was filed, assuming as true all factual allegations of the complaint. Steel Valley Authority v. Union Switch and Signal Division, American Standard, Inc., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3rd Cir. 1987). The removal statutes are to be strictly construed by the federal courts and any and all doubts are to be resolved in favor of remanding cases to the state courts. Commonwealth Film Processing, Inc. v. Moss & Rocovich, P.C., 778 F. Supp. 283 (W.D.Va. 1991); Holly Farms Corp. v. Taylor, 722 F. Supp. 1152 (D.Del. 1989).

 Moreover, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) requires a district court to remand a case to state court when it determines that that case was removed without jurisdiction. *fn1" Generally, a complaint may not be removed from state court to federal court unless it could have been filed originally in federal court. Charter Medical Corp. v. Friese, 732 F. Supp. 1160, 1162 (N.D.Ga. 1989) citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S. Ct. 2425, 2429, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318 (1987). Whether a case is one arising under the Constitution or a law or treaty of the United States, in the sense of the jurisdictional statute... must be determined from what necessarily appears in the plaintiff's statement of his own claim in the bill or declaration, unaided by anything alleged in anticipation of avoidance of defenses which it is thought the defendant may interpose. In other words, the federal question upon which jurisdiction is premised must be presented on the face of the plaintiffs' properly pleaded complaint. Albert Einstein Medical Center v. National Benefit Fund for Hospital & Health Care Employees, 740 F. Supp. 343, 348 (E.D.Pa. 1989). See Also: Franchise Tax Board v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 103 S. Ct. 2841, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420 (1983) and Taylor v. Anderson, 234 U.S. 74, 75-76, 34 S. Ct. 724, 724-25, 58 L. Ed. 1218 (1914).

 Although as a general matter, pre-emption is a defense which can not be considered in determining whether the complaint contains any federal question claims which support federal court jurisdiction, the courts have created a limited exception to this rule when the plaintiff's "artful pleading" is the sole reason for the omission of the federal issue from the complaint. Thus, a plaintiff may not defeat removal by failing to plead necessary federal questions in a complaint. Shiffler v. Equitable Life Assurance Society of U.S., 609 F. Supp. 832, 835 (E.D.Pa. 1985) citing, inter alia, Franchise Tax Board, supra, 103 S. Ct. at 2853 .

 Likewise, under the complete pre-emption doctrine, Congress may so completely pre-empt a particular area that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character. This doctrine has been said to arise only when two circumstances are present: when the enforcement provisions of a federal statute create a federal cause of action vindicating the same interest that the plaintiff's cause of action seeks to vindicate and when there is affirmative evidence of a congressional intent to permit removal despite the plaintiff's exclusive reliance on state law. Allstate Insurance Company v. 65 Security Plan, 879 F.2d 90, 93 (3rd Cir. 1989) citing Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 107 S. Ct. 1542, 1546, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1987) and Railway Labor Executives Association v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Co., 858 F.2d 936, 943-943 (3rd Cir. 1988). Once an area of state law has been completely pre-empted, any claim purportedly based on that pre-empted state law is considered from its inception a federal claim and removal is appropriate in such a case because Congress has manifested a clear intent to make such causes of action removable. Albert Einstein Medical Center, supra, 740 F. Supp. at 348 citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, also supra, 107 S. Ct. at 2430; Charter Medical Corp. v. Friese, supra, at 1163.

 Applying the foregoing principles to the statute at issue in the case at bar, it should preliminarily be noted that ERISA has been defined as "a comprehensive statute designed to promote the interests of employees and their beneficiaries in employee benefit plans." Section 514(a) of the statute, 29 U.S.C.§ 1144(a), in turn, effectively pre-empts "any and all State laws" (with the exception of state laws regulating insurance, banking, securities, worker's and unemployment/disability compensation and criminal offenses) "insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan" covered by ERISA. Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 90, 91, 103 S. Ct. 2890, 2896, 77 L. Ed. 2d 490 (1983). A law "relates to" an employee benefit plan, in the normal sense of the phrase, if it has a connection with or reference to such a plan. 103 S. Ct. at 2900. Under this broad, common-sense meaning, a state law may "relate to" a benefit plan, and thereby be pre-empted, even if the law is not specifically designed to affect such plans, or the effect is only indirect. The pre-emption clause is not limited to state laws specifically dealing with the subject matters covered by ERISA--reporting, disclosure, fiduciary responsibility, and the like nor is pre-emption precluded simply because a state law is consistent with ERISA's substantive requirements. Ingersoll-Rand Co., v. McClendon, 498 U.S. 133, 111 S. Ct. 478, 483, 112 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1990), citing Pilot Life Insurance Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 47, 107 S. Ct. 1549, 1552-53, 95 L. Ed. 2d 39 (1987) and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. ...


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